3D Laptops Fail To Ignite Consumer Interest

Movie studios and display manufacturers have both been pumping 3D viewing as The Next Big Thing for over a year, but the market as a whole has yet to display much interest. According to the analyst group IDG, 3D notebooks are typically priced well above $1000, despite the fact that in 2009, notebook ASPs were ~$569 after netbooks were removed from the equation. The price difference alone is enough to hurt consumer interest, but there are also questions regarding the future of 3D technology. Potentially interested buyers who aren't put off by the cost, are still leery of spending a substantial amount of money on a feature that could shrivel up and die in a few years. According to John Jacobs, an analyst with DisplaySearch, 3D isn't a particularly good fit for mobile systems. "If there's a reason you buy a notebook, it is because you need a notebook, not because you need a 3D notebook," Jacobs told Computerworld.

This doesn't sit particularly well with various manufacturers who've bet on widespread 3D uptake after giving up on OLED technology as a near-term must-have technology. Current information indicates that approximately 100,000 3D laptops have been sold thus far in 2010, out of a total of 100 million. By the end of 2010, DisplaySearch predicts total sales of $180,000 laptops, a whopping 0.08 percent market share. One problem with 3D notebooks is that they tend to favor lower screen resolutions like 1366x768. DisplaySearch believes this is part of why they don't appeal to gamers; a question we'll examine in more detail in the near future when we review the Lenovo Y560D.

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One point that's perhaps glossed over more than it should be is that 1366x768 panels have spread like a noxious disease into every notebook manufacturer's inventory. Ironically, if you compare modern notebooks to notebooks from 2-3 years ago, resolutions have gone backwards. It's now common for 15.6" notebooks to use 1366x768 (rather than 1280x1024, 1680x1050, or even 1440x900). Even 17" notebooks, which used to feature 1680x1050 or even 1900x1200, are all-to-often now 1600x900.

The news on smaller resolution screens isn't all bad--it's one way to ensure lower-end discrete GPUs can produce good framerates--but it's enough to annoy most serious gamers. Given the degree of lousy 3D titles and the historical fact that 3D content is something that tends to become more popular and then die off in 20-30 year cycles, we're not remotely convinced that 3D laptops will ever capture more than a small minority of sales. Those of you who are planning to buy multimedia laptops in the not-too-distant future, is 3D capability something you care about, or is it not worth the additional premium?